Building a greener tour bus

Photos courtesy STAMP STAMP is renovating this biodiesel-compatible bus into the nation's most sustainable band tour bus.

Biodiesel group crowd-funding a sustainable alternative for traveling bands

By Steve Graham

Eric Skjerseth and Jennifer Zidon are building what they call the nation’s most sustainable tour bus to help get touring bands off of fossil fuels.

And they could use your help.

They are crowd-funding a project to upgrade and remodel a former city bus into a cushy traveling home for touring bands, and the bus will run on solar power and biodiesel. It also will serve as a model for other bands and, Skjerseth hopes, a catalyst for broad changes in the touring music model.

Meanwhile, the couple also is sending northern Colorado bands around the Front Range to promote the Fort Collins music scene and publicize their biodiesel projects.

Skjerseth is the co-founder of Biodiesel for Bands (BFB), and his wife Zidon runs the company’s nonprofit educational arm, Sustainable Touring for Artists, Musicians and Performers (STAMP).

Eric Skjerseth first imagined a biodiesel operation while on tour with his band about 10 years ago. They were stopped at a Pennsylvania gas station adjacent to a strip of fast-food joints.

“I was filling up and I had just learned about biodiesel and I thought, ‘Man, I’m spending all this money and it’s going to support the Iraq War and all this other crap that was happening,’” he said. “I was looking at the Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s and I was like, if we had biodiesel, I could just fill up there.”

When he returned to Fort Collins, he started working with John Long, a local activist who launched Blue Sun Biodiesel, alongside the Sustainable Living Association and many other groups. Skjerseth and Long co-founded BFB, with the goal of running music festivals and tour buses on sustainable biodiesel.

“Bands need to have an option so they are not supporting the oil industry,” Skjerseth said. “For the most past, musicians are more environmentally minded than your average consumer.”

Eateries also are looking for sustainable ways to dispose of large volumes of used vegetable oil.

“The restaurant industry could support the entire music industry three times over with how much grease comes out of restaurants,” he said.

BFB’s projects were delayed by Long’s illness and death in 2017, but Skjerseth got the company back on track with biodiesel-powered shuttle buses to Red Rocks and Mishawaka shows.

“There have been a lot of wrenches thrown in our way, but we’re finally getting to where the party bus is sustaining itself,” he said.

The party bus is warming up for the summer concert season with the FOCO Road Show tour through Colorado Springs, Denver and Pueblo on the last weekend in March. Tyler T and the Common Clay, Lois and the Lantern and at least one other local band will be on the tour.

While showing off BFB’s biodiesel capacity and recruiting local restaurants in those cities, they also will publicize Fort Collins as a music tourism destination, especially for next month’s FoCoMX festival.

Zidon hopes to send out the next FOCO Road Show on a fancier tour bus that is currently being rehabbed at Weld County Garage in Greeley.

Kurt Lange donated the bus to STAMP. Lange owns Clear Ecos, which partners with BFB to collect used cooking oil from restaurants and turn it into biodiesel. Lange had planned to turn the bus into his solar home on wheels, and an educational tool about vehicles run on solar and biodiesel power, but ended up focusing on other projects.

He modified the engine to run on biodiesel, and he wired the heating and air conditioning systems to run on solar power. However, it needs new tires, a more fuel-efficient transmission, interior upgrades and new solar panels.

“It will be the mostly environmentally friendly bus in America by the time we are done with it,” Skjerseth said.

Local companies are helping provide some of the upgrades, and Fort Collins-based Community Funded has donated their crowd-funding platform to cover the rest of the budget.

“We’re looking for community members to step up,” he said.

Bands also are pitching in by joining BFB. If they pay the equivalent of 15 tickets at their average ticket price or host a BFB fundraising concert, they earn discounts on renting out the STAMP bus when it’s finished.

For more information and to contribute to the campaign, go to www.stampus.org.

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